Tourism and National Identity in Scotland

Last month we published Kalyan Bhandari’s book Tourism and National Identity. Here Kalyan gives us some background to the book.

Tourism and National IdentityIt is imperative that I explain the background that has shaped this study and the reason for this book. The materials in this book are based on my doctoral research. The topic was conceived slightly earlier during my MLitt programme in Tourism, Heritage and Development at the University of Glasgow. The first few weeks of the MLitt programme immersed me in Scottish history and culture and I realised that there was a deeper interaction of tourism with the Scottish nation as the touristic heritage of Scotland persistently represented its cultural identity, national image and distinctive characteristics.

I wanted to pursue this area more and in the middle of my MLitt course I transferred to a PhD programme. I felt I could be more objective as I am from Nepal, a country that has no colonial relation with the United Kingdom. In Nepal, the United Kingdom is understood as a unitary entity and the existence of other ‘national’ units within the UK is largely unknown. Thus, the interpretation in this book is informed by my background as a Nepali national and my perception of the UK until coming to Scotland for my postgraduate studies.

My question in this book is:  What role does tourism play in the imagining of the Scottish nation in contemporary Scotland? This question is informed by two important considerations: i) that tourist sites are socio-cultural constructions and different tourism regions, spaces and sites may produce different narratives for tourists; ii) that not all tourism sites or images and icons run a single discourse, as each touristic region or area is different from others in terms of the history it represents and the image and icons they are associated with. I was aware that many people believe the image of Scotland in tourism is unfairly tilted towards one region, the Scottish Highlands, and that this has resulted in a highly stereotyped identity of Scotland favouring this region. Thus, in this book I have chosen the relatively less known southwest and the central belt as my field.

The choice of the southwest region was largely informed by my own home experience. I come from that part of Nepal which is not strongly connected with the popular tourism areas of Nepal. The region does not fit within the stereotypical image of Nepal and is considered largely neglected in terms of tourism development. This correlates strongly to the southwest region of Scotland. In terms of academic orientation, my previous post-graduate qualification in sociology has greatly shaped this book.  However, this work was conducted whilst based in the School of Interdisciplinary Studies of the University of Glasgow and I was constantly interacting with scholars whose disciplinary backgrounds were varied. These facts have strongly influenced my approach in this book.

If you would like more information about the book please see our website.

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